Tobold's Blog
Thursday, November 13, 2008
WotLK mudflation

I will go out and buy Wrath of the Lich King later today, didn't want to queue up for it at midnight. And then I'll install it, and start playing, doing quests, and trying to get into dungeon groups. And in a few levels my current epic gear will be replaced by a mix of green and blue items with better stats. The process in which new items in a MMORPG make old items obsolete is called mudflation, and it will apply to just armor, but also some tradegoods in WotLK. I sold all my gems, as I'm expecting the gems of WotLK to be both better and cheaper than current rare socketable gems.

For characters currently still in green or blue gear, Wrath of the Lich King will bring a huge step up very quickly. Even early quests and the first dungeon run at level 70 in Northrend are likely to yield some gear upgrade. Most people will enjoy that, because a quest that yields some better gear is always more fun than a quest that just yields vendor trash.

Players with characters in epic gear are likely to have somewhat less fun. For a few levels the quests and even dungeons won't bring any upgrade to their gear. And once you get gear with better stats in the mid-70s, it will probably look less good than those epics you had. Apparently Blizzard made the typical Northrend armor somewhat more stylish than the Outland quest rewards were, which often made you look like a clown. But I'm pretty certain that the really good-looking shapes and textures will be reserved for the level 80 epics. Fortunately I'm not much of a slave for fashion, I'll wear whatever has the better stats.

I don't think that mudflation can be avoided with the current "add 10 levels" model for WoW expansions. If level 71 greens were only slightly better than level 70 greens, and much worse than level 70 epics, then the players who are already wearing the epics wouldn't get any better gear until much later in the expansion, maybe even only at reaching the level 80 dungeons. The big step up in item quality also allows to level the playing field: Players currently in epics enjoy an advantage of better stats and thus faster leveling for a while, but the other players will catch up on gear quickly. After all, Blizzard has to think of new players starting World of Warcraft only now, and of Death Knights, all of which will arrive in Northrend without ever having had the opportunity to gather level 70 epics.

Mudflation isn't necessarily a bad thing, although there is a risk of demotivating a certain type of players. Some players see the value of raiding in getting the epic gear, so making that epic gear obsolete somehow diminishes their achievement. But for those who can't bear to wear the same gear as everybody else, there is always the possibility to rush to 80 and work on the next set of epics. I'm afraid that is what far too many players will do.
Mudflation doesn't really bother me, because Blizzard has it one step better than most governments -- through gear resets, they are actually able to devalue all existing goods. It's pretty clever. The gear resets, and everyone is back to square one ... or are they?

What bothers me more than mudflation is power creep -- by definition, each talent point you get will make your charcter stronger. As if this weren't bad enough, with each expansion Blizzard has done things like condense two talents into one, make five point talents into three points for the same effect, and make skills that were previously talents into baseline abilities.

Even if you discount new gear, a naked character at level X now is much more powerful than that same character would have been four years ago. It scares me, because I cant help but wonder if at some point Blizzard will have upped the ante so much that the whole system breaks.
Tobold, I can say that after leveling to 80 in beta, mudflation is not that bad. It was only bad in Burning Crusade due to the stamina reitemization. The retribution set on my paladin was made up of Karazhan epics with a couple Black Temple epics and I only replaced a couple items by the time I reached 80. Quest rewards from level 77 or so quests are NOT better than Karazhan gear.

T5 and above will last you all the way to 80 if only questing and you're likely to replace very little of it from instancing on the way. This is only for armor though. Even the best weapons out there will be replaced by level 77. There is very little armor mudflation though. It seems like a natural progression from level 70 greens to level 71 greens. No major power gaps.
Surprisingly from what I looked at, all the Northrend Greens "match up" and look pretty damn good. Obviously they may not match up with what you have / only certain other greens, but they do look interesting.

That said, apparently some computers arnt liking the dvd's - and some installers arnt working correctly, so heres this link from tech support if you need it -

Download, select wotlk, select a language - if you have problems.
in fact mudflation is unavoidable in an open economy.
It shouldn't really concern the average player that much...
I have been viewing the expansion as an excuse to make all your gear obsolete so you have to start from scratch again 10 levels later, or in other words slow you down so you don't breeze through content due to your gear, for months now. Looking back at the transition from vanilla to TBC it's the exact same thing, only more outspoken as there is no change in stat point value for certain stats this time around.

The funny part is that this slow down will only be a very temporary setback for the most "hardcore" people, as they will be breezing through content anyway, only a little slower until their gear matches the level of content they're at. Mudflation tends to hit "casual" players worse than "hardcore" ones because "hardcore" players close the gap more quickly.

I still stand by my point that expansions are basically excuses for gear resets with some added sugar coating to hide this fact. That doesn't mean the game isn't fun though, it just means that you shouldn't get so attached to your gear (which I guess you aren't, judging from your posts). ;)
Mudflation seems to be amplified in WoW due to raid progression based upon stats.

Since ever increasing stats break PvP, WAR is instead handling content progression with 'wards'. Wards don't give any advantages in regular play, they just ensure that you are actually able to inflict and resist damage from particular PvE mobs, and thereby enforce content progression.

In next week's LotRO expansion, they are introducing a similar system where you need to collect gear with 'radiance' in order to raid effectively. Lack of radiance will give stat penalties against certain raid bosses, but won't offer disadvantages elsewhere.

The advantage of these non-stat based progression mechanisms is that they offer much greater control over mudflation, and this means more control over difficulty scaling, i.e. they shouldn't trivialise older content as quickly.
Personally, I just got the CE, but I'm totally not motivated to install or play it. I will, eventually within the next few days, but I'm anything but sure it'll be today already...
Unwise, I'm not sure about that actually.

One of the great things about WoW is that you don't need a PARTICULAR set of gear, rather, anything with the appropriate stats can be used. I think this is where Wards will definitely fail since those are ALL linked to specific sets.

When you think about it that way (and in all the little ways RNG and other people needing the same gear can screw you over), it no longer seems like such a great idea, eh?
"Most people will enjoy that, because a quest that yields some better gear is always more fun than a quest that just yields vendor trash."

And this mindset is the source of many of the drama in MMO's, in my humble opinion.

In all of the raider vs. casual argument, when lots of people said it's all about seeing content and this and that, nobody ever managed to explain to me why I could never get a group for AQ40 or Naxxramas. I wanted to see and experience that content and it would be easier since we all had later-game gear. I could never set up a group.

You just explained why, thank you.

Mudflation is also important to make previous content more open to pugs since the older instance will not be retuned to the new gear. Perhaps this was what blizzard had in mind all along.
Looking at the items dropping in the first couple of instances (linked in guild chat), it looks to be equivalent to ZA/T5/QuelDanas Badge gear.

Some members of our guild spent the night running instances and levelling their professions up to the maximum level.
Call it a gear reset if you will, but the hard-core players are already racing ahead of everyone else.
I'm not planning on replacing any of my gear until level 80, atleast on my main which I decided would be my mage. Reason is that I've looked at gear at various levels between 70-80. The gear out there may be a marginal upgrade for me but it lakes two things. Enchants and Resilience. I've spent lots of money enchanting my gear and I personally wouldn't take a new piece of gear that was only slightly better but lacked an enchant and that overall made the item worse. I could buy the enchant again, but this time around I'm saving all my gold for end game. Resilience is key for PvP and I play on a PvP server. I'm a mage and people love to try and gank me. The gear going towards 80 will probably have no resilience on it. I'm gonna stay prepared for those damn rogues.

One of the great things about WoW is that you don't need a PARTICULAR set of gear, rather, anything with the appropriate stats can be used. I think this is where Wards will definitely fail since those are ALL linked to specific sets.

Well, I haven't looked at the Wards system in detail, but yes, I can see how it might be overly restrictive in its current incarnation. However the principle for avoiding mudflation is sound.

Take the LotRO system, for example. Radiance is something that seems like it will only be required in raids, but if you lack a little of it you can still contribute, just not at your full potential. It can be seen as a specific 'raiding stat'. Something required for raids, but offering no benefits elsewhere.

Raid gear can still have better stats than other gear in order to offer a clear raiding incentive, but the stat jumps don't have to be so huge. By replacing base stats as the mechanism for progression, you have much greater control over mudflation.

Regarding having to rely on the RNG to get this gear, just have some sort of backup barter system in place (e.g. badges), so even unlucky rollers can obtain the gear they need in a fairly predictable amount of time.
I worry about burnout for the players that came on after BC. I remember when BC came out and replacing the gear I worked so hard for in vanilla, it burned me out fast because it devalued the game in my mind. Since this is the second time for some, and not such a dramatic gear reset maybe it will be easier on them then it was on me.
Even if you discount new gear, a naked character at level X now is much more powerful than that same character would have been four years ago. It scares me, because I cant help but wonder if at some point Blizzard will have upped the ante so much that the whole system breaks.

Is this a programming type of "The system breaks" or a gameplay mechanics one?

If gameplay mechanics, it might break the system for lower levels at some point (though most of the power creep talked about seems small enough not to do so), and at higher levels, blizzard can simply increase the stats as much as they want to keep things balanced.

In programming terms, it's harder to say.
I think the mudflation in TBC really upset people who worked so hard for thier uber epics. I know my guild ( in Naxx) had an impossible time getting people for raids very quickly after the stats on 61-70 gear began showing up on the news sites.

This time around, we had waiting lists even on this past sunday, with no lull in activity at all over the past few months. Pretty solid all the way through. People were even upset the servers prevented us from raiding this tuesday. We even reset DKP for the expansion so that wasnt even a motivator.
I know it seems silly but a lot of people seem to be motivated to complete older content now, including raids, just to get the achievements.
I can't understand the complaints about replacing epic gear. Do people want to just get T6 and then never replace it ever? What fun would it be to never upgrade gear once you got the current best? If gear is a person's sole motivation for playing (which it seems to be for these people) then wouldn't there be no reason to keep playing at that point?
I agree that mudflation is hard to prevent, I honestly think of too many ways to combat it. A sense of progression is important that is certain. What I do hate is when old areas go completely unused. I DO think this can be prevented with updates and large quests. There are a lot of great areas that go completely ignored because expansions take us away from them. EQ1 and WoW are the worse at this I think, but oddly, EQ2 seems to keep at least some people playing in the old zones.
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